Jack Ma is the extradordinary founder and CEO of the Alibaba Group, which owns several successful internet companies in China such as Alibaba.com, Taobao.com, China Yahoo!, and Alipay.
In 1995, Jack Ma, a former English teacher, saw the potential of the internet and started China Yellow Pages, China’s first internet-based company. In 1999, he founded Alibaba.com to help small businesses in e-commerce and allow buyers and suppliers around the world to do business online. It was a huge success and is now the e-commerce leader in China and the world, with 72.8 million registered users in more than 240 countries and regions.
Being so established, he has unique views on education and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, which differs from the “established” ways on how we define success and education. His aim is to help the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China and around the world.
In one of the speeches he says “I told my son: you don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills. I think, if China’s economy wants to develop, it needs a lot of SMEs and individually-run companies, and that requires a lot of entrepreneurs with values and drive.”
What he says about the education system is fascinating because it conflicts with the conventional way of studying: you must strive to be the best and any other activity is just distraction from your goal (in your case: aiming for a good college). Well that’s how the education in the world has been shaped. Anyone who wants to go for a good college, has to study hard and score well. Which directly means that any skills you might have developed outside of the classroom are irrelevant in terms of college admission, which means that from a student’s point of view, outside activities are just a waste of time if your goal is to get into a college.
The world have seen individuals achieving success even though they weren’t a top-three type of student; Jack Ma being the best example in the case. He focuses on individual drive which can ultimately drive the economy of a country.
Taking example of China’s educational system, he says that keep up with your schoolwork but don’t let it define you. Hone new skills and follow your passions in your free time. That might seem obvious to some, but in some Chinese educational circles, it’s a message that borders on revolutionary.
Here is a link to one of Jack Ma’s speeches where he addresses a graduating class at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on Nov. 8, 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6VRcIcL4xw